The Aspire Grant Program provides competitive research grants of up to $5,000 USD for African graduate students and early career professionals working in the areas of biodiversity, conservation and environmental sustainability in the Congo Basin region.
The Congo Basin rainforests comprise one of the most important centers of biodiversity in the world and harbor an estimated 20% of all known species of plants and animals. While efforts are underway to implement conservation projects, habitat conversion, mineral extraction, forest degradation and deforestation continue at accelerating rates. Exacerbating these threats, the African continent, and the Congo Basin in particular, is predicted as one of the regions to be most severely affected by climate change. Recent projections suggest rainfall patterns will change dramatically and 50% of African mammals are at risk of extinction if the rise in mean global temperature exceeds 3°C, an increase predicted to occur by the end of the century (IPCC 2014). Furthermore, impacts from severe water and food scarcity, environmental deterioration, agricultural pests, emerging human diseases, and climate change impede the development of constructive and sustainable conservation solutions. To meet these challenges, Central Africa desperately needs a new generation of environmental and conservation experts.
CARN established the Aspire Grant Program in 2014 to support and encourage young African scientists to conduct novel conservation research and management activities that address the critical challenges facing wildlife, biodiversity and ecosystem health in the Congo Basin. Critically, these small grants can build the foundation for young African researchers to become independent, providing “bridge funding” that allows them to compete in larger international arenas. Most importantly, small research grants will encourage and provide a means for young Africans to remain engaged in their research and stay in their native countries to practice their trades.